Our house

KnutsonhouseThis blurb, taken from the archives, first ran in 1946 and appeared in the Our History section of the Kittson County Enterprise this week. The home the article is referring to is our home in Hallock. Dr. Knutson was my husband’s grandfather. Years later, his daughter (my mother-in-law) and her family (including my husband) moved into the home. And, years after, we live here. Not long ago, the daughter of the Veblen’s visited from California to see where she lived early in her life. She told me stories about hiding under the stairs, playing in the attic and which room was hers.I love that our house has a history. This fall our living room flooded and we had to take down the ceiling and a wall. We uncovered some fun finds.

One says “Robbie Veblen Hallock Minn sat upon a safety pin.”IMG_5660 IMG_5667 IMG_5659

Making connections

These past few weeks I’ve been busy speaking about Breath of Wilderness, Sig and my passions, which has given me the opportunity to make connections with diverse Minnesotans from all corners of the state. On May 9, I spoke at an event at Augsburg College “Am I Measuring Up? Our Stories Rewrite the Rules.” I am still in awe of the powerful, interesting and passionate women I met that day. We had much in common, yet came from different backgrounds, countries, and ages. The other speakers — Kari Logan (performer), Becky Shaheen (singer, songwriter), and Tara Sweeney (artist, writer) — inspired and entertained with their compelling stories. Wow. I felt honored to talk about my writing and how it is my passion but also a platform for my passions. And, I love sharing Sig’s story with others.

The next week I spoke at Senior Fellowship at Como Park Lutheran in St. Paul. My presentation included Sig’s work in saving wild places and the process of writing the book. Everyone was so kind, welcoming and curious.

Last week I attended the North East Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Breath of Wilderness was nominated in the Children’s Literature category. Before and after the ceremony, they held a book fair. I was assigned to share a table with Nikki Rajala, who with her mother Agnes Rajala, wrote Waters Like the Sky, a book about the Voyageurs. Nikki and I connected instantly and later we learned that we were both Augsburg College grads. Small world. Nikki’s book had been nominated in the fiction category. At the event, I reconnected with someone I’d taken a writing class with, a former favorite family babysitter, and one of the first editors of my book. And, of course, we came home with some new books to read.NEMBA

Grateful is the word I seem to use most often these days to describe how I feel. These opportunities are no different. Who knew that writing this book would allow me to connect, grow and learn in ways I never fathomed?

Northeastern Minnesota Book Award

Woo Hoo! Breath of Wilderness: The Life of Sigurd Olson has been accepted for the 27th Annual Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA), presented by the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Kathryn A. Martin Library, Friends of the Duluth Public Library in collaboration with Lake Superior Writers in the Children’s Lit category.

These awards recognize books that substantially represent northeastern Minnesota in history, culture, heritage or lifestyle.

The NEMBA ceremony will be Thursday, May 21 at 6:30 pm with a book fair from 5-6:30 and later from 8-9:00 pm.

Aspiring writers

I received much advice and support from fellow writers throughout the process of writing, editing, and promoting Breath of Wilderness that when someone asks for my advice or support I feel it’s the least I can do. I also feel a calling to share Sig’s message with whoever I can.

This fall Melanie Lang, a 9th grader at Willow River Public School in Willow River, Minnesota, wrote a letter asking if I’d ever consider visiting her school to speak about writing. She told me that she loves writing and has already written five books, but that she’s thrown them away, because “they weren’t any good.”  She also said that she loves to write because she has lots of stories to tell. Truth be told, I had no idea where Willow River even is so I looked it up and found that it’s a long hike from northwestern Minnesota. Yet, I hoped to find a way to visit. I contacted Melanie’s teacher and eventually we set up a time to speak to the 9th grade Careers class.


When I arrived at Melanie’s school, I learned that she had ordered my book, but hadn’t received it yet. How had she heard of me, I wondered. Goodreads, she told me. Huh.This surprised me. I occasionally check out Goodreads for book suggestions, but I had no expectation that it could lead someone to find me or Breath of Wilderness. I spoke to the class about the writing process and my book, specifically, and answered many questions. Melanie and I talked afterwards and I encouraged her to keep writing and reading.


Later that afternoon, I met Grace Wenck. Grace is 11 and attends Bailey Elementary in Woodbury, Minnesota. I know Grace’s dad and he’d asked if I would sit down with Grace and talk about writing. Grace also wants to be a writer. She’s a voracious reader of mostly fiction, but some non-fiction if it’s written well, she disclosed. Grace told me that she has many ideas and starts lots of stories, but doesn’t usually finish them. Grace had prepared a list of questions for me and took notes as I answered. I was impressed with Grace’s enthusiasm and thoroughness and enjoyed hanging out with her.

I loved meeting these girls. I love their drive, their creativity, their dedication, their desire to learn more about writing, their wit and sense of humor and their smarts. I’m tempted to say what I love most about writing the book has been the connections I’ve made with kids. But, that isn’t exactly true. There are  many amazing and fulfilling aspects of writing the book and it’s hard to rank them, but this is definitely in the top five.

The best of luck to Grace and Melanie. I know they will do well. I, for one, am anxiously waiting to read their future masterpieces.